A check of the watch. A high five with the TinCaps’ mascot, Johnny. A shake of the hands with a tournament organizer.
The seconds that immediately followed Crystina Ridenour crossing the finish line at the Fort4Fitness half marathon last year are so blasé – she seems anything but out of breath – that it’s enough to make any novice runner jealous.
But nothing about running is easy for Ridenour, even if she has won the event three years straight, doing it last year with a time of 1 hour, 21 minutes, 32 seconds.
She’s certainly accomplished – the native of Valparaiso had a star-studded career for IPFW until 2010 – but it hasn’t been easy integrating her running into her post-college life.
There’s a delicate balance to training, and it’s not easy to keep it steady when you have a job, a marriage and you like to train with somebody.
It’s been hard. It’s an adjustment, Ridenour, 26, says of keeping her competitive edge while being in the working world – for Star Financial Bank.
I run every morning at 5 a.m. You just have to get it done when you can. Otherwise, it can be hard trying to get it done after work.
It used to be easier, when she was just a student or working at Three Rivers Running Company, and she was surrounded by people with the same passion, every day.
Ridenour has been running since middle school. She took to it quickly and was an all-state performer at Wheeler High School.
I did try swimming in high school, she says. I just wanted to focus on running. I found a passion for that. I’ve loved it ever since. I’m kind of addicted to it.
But there’s always been a constant; her twin sister, Crystal, who also ran at Wheeler and IPFW. When they left the Mastodons, they held nearly every distance record at the school and had both been selected all-conference in the Summit League.
As you’d expect, they’ve always trained together. But Crystal is more than six months pregnant and unable to be at Crystina’s side nowadays.
The competition will be stiffer this year, as a record number of people have signed up for Fort4Fitness. (There were 10,136 people for the five events, as of Sept. 16, including 3,067 for the half marathon.)
Of course, most of them never ran at a level as high as Ridenour has.
We were a Division I school (at IPFW) and I competed against all those athletes from other D1 teams, so I’m used to having a lot of competition, says Ridenour, who’s gotten faster in each of the three Fort4Fitness races in which she’s competed.
But Fort4Fitness isn’t about just winning, and Ridenour knows it, which is why she does her best to stay around the finish line and congratulate other runners.
Some of them she knows. Most of them she doesn’t.
I’ve gotten to meet a bunch of runners and hear how they got involved in running, she says. You don’t have to be competitive to do it. And it’s nice to see people are getting into the spirit of running.